The lower courts rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the law violates the United States Constitution’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. The lawsuit seeks an unlimited right to carry handguns concealed in public.
The conservative 6-3 majority in the Supreme Court is seen as supporting a broad view of Second Amendment rights.
New York law requires that applicants state a specific reason for needing a firearm in self-defense.
“Why isn’t it enough to say ‘I live in a violent area and I want to defend myself?’ Asked Conservative Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Conservative Judge Samuel Alito questioned why only “celebrities, state judges and retired police officers” should be able to carry concealed firearms, as opposed to “ordinary, law-abiding” citizens .
Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts raised doubts about New York’s practice of granting unrestricted licenses more freely in more rural areas compared to densely populated centers like Manhattan, as the Second Amendment protected the right to self-defense.
“How many attacks take place in the forest? Roberts asked New York Solicitor General Barbara Underwood, who was defending the law.
Underwood stressed the need to regulate concealed firearms to promote public safety, noting that the prospect of the proliferation of firearms in the New York subway “terrifies” many people.
Conservative judge Samuel Alito rebuffed his argument, saying there were already people with illegal guns in the metro and other public places. “But ordinary people who work hard … they can’t be armed,” Alito said.
New York law requires the demonstration of “good cause” for carrying concealed handguns. To carry such a weapon without restrictions, applicants must convince a state firearms licensing officer of a real, rather than speculative, need for self-defense.
A ruling overturning New York’s law would raise new legal questions in the future, including how local governments can regulate firearms in sensitive locations such as government buildings, public transportation, sports stadiums , schools, universities, event venues and drinking establishments.
Paul Clement, the challengers’ lawyer, said bans on government buildings and schools would likely be accepted, but others would need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Some judges have expressed concern over whether a ruling against New York could restrict states and localities from imposing bans in sensitive locations. Conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett questioned New York City’s massive annual celebration in Times Square on New Years Eve.
The three Liberals in the court have voiced their concerns about expanding gun rights.